She was again halfway through the garage when the door to the house opened. Corey was again only in his pajama bottoms.
“Good evening, ma’am. How may I help you?”
She chuckled, thinking he looked pretty good.
“Undress me, please,” she said.
“You smell like rum.”
She pulled the cloth from her sleeve and threw it into the washer.
“My drink for the night. It was ghastly.”
“Are you becoming an alcoholic? First mimosas, now rum?” he said, following her into the bedroom.
“Rum and coke. I told the bartender to go easy on the rum, but I think even a drop of rum would have ruined the whole drink.”
She kicked her shoes off into the closet.
“So what did you see?”
“I’ll have to view the camera footage, but I’m thinking nothing. Rather quiet. Let me shower off the rum smell.”
Corey was already unbuttoning her blouse.
“I love it when you undress me,” she said.
“Go shower,” he said. “The blouse reeks, too.”
“I’ll give it a rinse. No wonder Peter said not to throw a drink at him.”
Banter showered and rinsed out the blouse. She left it drip drying in the shower, then joined him in bed.
“You smell better,” he said, cuddling up to her.
“Thanks. How did your evening go?”
“I heard all about how you terrorized my children by taking away their dogs.”
“I’ve never seen my boys so cooperative with each other. And Ollie picked a good dog. He doesn’t chase the rabbits out of the yard, but she does. She smells them right out. Ollie has to see them move.”
“The bloodhound in her. Yeah, I think she’s a good dog, too.”
She savored his body heat.
“I’m going out again tomorrow. I’ll meet Bea,” she said.
“Good. I’ll feel better if you’re with someone.”
“There’s always an undercover outside,” she said.
“Useless,” he muttered under his breath.
“Yeah,” she said, fully agreeing with him.
Banter felt him fall asleep. She was almost asleep herself when she remembered they hadn’t talked about what he was working on. He did tend to be private about his cases, but he usually chatted about some of the things. Lately, he was mum on everything.
In the morning, Banter didn’t have to say anything to the boys about dogs, feeding, or taking them outside. Taking them out proved to be a quick affair. It was raining.
“No training,” Kyle said with a sigh.
“Even dogs need a day off,” Banter said. “I guess it’s a good day for reading.”
The boys settled on the couch with the dogs on the floor. Banter sat at the kitchen table to review the video she had taken the night before.
Her camera recorded the view while she got out of the car. She had swung left and right to get the area with all the cars. Inside, her position at the bar was almost perfect. There was an area on the other side of the bar she couldn’t get, but she was able to get people coming and going. She watched the whole two hours.
Her gut said something was off, but she couldn’t pick it out.
She started watching the video again, but Bea arrived.
Bea was carrying a few groceries.
“Need any help?” Banter said.
“No, this is it.”
“I’m heading out. I’ll see you later,” Banter said.
“Here’s the receipt for the day,” Bea said.
“Thanks. I’ll get this transferred over.”
Banter liked that Bea did all the grocery shopping. She just had to transfer money to her for the expenses.
“See you later, Colo. Bye Kyle.”
Both boys hardly looked up from their readers.
Banter headed into the office.
“This place does nothing but sends emails,” she said with a groan while she sat at her desk.
She filtered out the junk. There were no updates on any of the cases she followed.
Nessa stepped in with her soda.
She had just taken a sip when Peter stepped in.
“So what did you see?” he said, settling in a chair.
He had a large soda from a fast-food place.
“A lot of nothing, which is unsettling,” she said.
“There’s nothing there,” he said.
“So far, what I’ve seen agrees with you,” she said.
“Are you going again?”
“Yeah, tonight, but I’ll be meeting a friend to sit with me.”
“So, what did you drink?”
“Rum and coke.”
“You drank that?”
“No. I’m pretty good with sleigh of hand and that drink went everywhere but in my mouth.”
“And you’re right. Rum does ruin a good soda,” she said.
He nodded and rose.
“See you later,” he said.
An hour later, Corey stepped in and shut the door.
“Lunch?” he said.
“The sweetest word I’ve ever heard,” she said, adding a little huskiness to her voice.
She rose. He took her in his arms and gave her a kiss.
“I’m sure there is something in the policies and procedures about this,” she said.
“There is, but only if you’re not married to each other. Let’s go.”
Peter was standing by the elevator.
“Where you taking her today?” Peter said.
“Deli,” Corey said.
“He’s using us as an example,” Banter said, heading to the stairs.
Peter followed them.
“An example of what?” Corey said.
“How to treat a woman,” she said.
“How’s that working for you?” Corey said.
“Not bad,” Peter said.
“So who you with. Hannah?”
“You are behind, Corey. She was two girlfriends ago,” Peter said. “It’s Lanny.”
“I don’t know Lanny. What does she do?”
“She’ll keep you on your toes.”
“We don’t talk business.”
“How’s the undercover business?”
“Terrible,” Peter said. “See you later.”
He left the stairwell on the third floor.
“He needs a haircut,” Corey said.
“I think that’s the only reason he’s still an undercover.”
“So he doesn’t have to get a haircut?”
“That’s the only explanation I have,” she said.
They stepped out of the building.
“It’s raining,” Corey said.
“I should have grabbed an umbrella from the car.”
“Sticking close to the overhangs will work. It’s just a light drizzle.”
They ran across the street, catching the walk sign before it ended, and hardly got wet.
“Of course,” she said.
Banter found a table at the back. Everyone seemed to want to sit up front and watch the rain.
Corey returned with their sandwiches.
“I had an odd request today,” he said, barely moving his lips.
“I was asked to do a swab for a paternity test.”
Banter choked trying to control a laugh.
“This isn’t to do with Carla is it?”
“So you’ve heard about that.”
“Peter told me.”
“I refused. First, I told them that I hadn’t and wouldn’t ever touch Carla.”
“I was told she has the hots for you.”
“Second, I’ve already been snipped. That’s what fouled up the last wife.”
She knew that Corey never used his last wife’s name any more. In fact, his sons never mentioned her either. When they had gotten married, both of his boys had started calling her mom.
“She didn’t have to worry about birth control with me, so I’m sure she wasn’t thinking about it when she started her affair. I’m sure it was a surprise when she found herself pregnant.”
“Makes sense. So, they think they can ask everyone to do a paternity test?”
“They can try, but they can’t make us.”
“Pretty bad that she doesn’t know who it would be.”
“One word comes to mind, but I think I’ll focus on my lunch,” he said.
“Are you going to be late tonight?”
“No,” he said.
“So, what’s been going on?”
“We’ll talk about that some other time,” he said.
Banter didn’t push the issue, letting him eat.
“Peter going to be sitting tonight?” Corey said after he had finished his sandwich.
Banter still had a few bites to go.
“Yes. He thinks it’s all a waste of time and that there’s nothing going on.”
“He could be right. He is the better of the group.”
“Excluding you,” he said.
Banter finished her sandwich. The deli crowd was thinning out.
“Ready,” she said.
It was raining harder, and they were a little wet when they got into the police building.
“Umbrella, Corey. Umbrella,” Max, the policeman on duty at the door said.
“Wise words as always, Max,” Corey said.
They trotted up the stairs together.
“What time are you going home today?”
“Three,” she said.
“See you at home.”
Banter did a quick check of her emails before running through the entire video again. She still couldn’t put a finger on what bothered her.
At three, she shut down her laptop. While she waited for it to shutdown, she mulled over the fact that she hadn’t heard from Ray, not that she was complaining. She expected him to interrogate her about her evening. With nothing to report, she was glad she didn’t have to talk to him. She left her office, aware that Corey was gone. Nessa wasn’t around either.
While she drove home, she hoped the boys were being good. She didn’t know what she would do if they were still fighting. Threatening to take the dogs away was her biggest bluff.
It was still raining when she pulled into the garage. The house was quiet.
“Where are the boys?” she said to Bea.
Bea was in the kitchen.
“They have umbrellas. You should watch.”
Banter stepped over to the back door. Each one had an umbrella and was following their respective dog around, keeping the dogs covered.
“They been good?”
“Very. Reading and taking the dogs out when needed.”
The boys came back in, careful to wipe their feet. Bea handed each of them a towel to wipe down the dogs’ feet.
“How’s Patsy’s training, Kyle.”
“Good,” he said.
Banter noted that Patsy stayed with him until he released her with a wave of his hand.
“Looks like it.”
“I’m just finishing up here, and I’m off,” Bea said.
“I’ll see you later. Thanks for helping,” Banter said.
After Bea left and the boys were settled reading, Banter reviewed the video again.
“Nothing stands out,” she said to herself. “Maybe that’s the problem.”
That insight led her nowhere.
“Colo, let’s get set for dinner.”
There was the usual rush when Corey came home. When everyone came to the table, there was silence overhead.
“I think she’s getting used to the routine,” Banter said.
“I keep telling her why she’s up there. She should know,” Kyle said.
“I think hand signals and Ollie are the only languages she knows.”
“I’m going to teach her Spanish,” Kyle said.
“Secret commands in Spanish. You might have something there,” Corey said.
Dinner, as usual, went fast. The boys showed their dad how they took the dogs out with the umbrellas since it was still raining. He acted impressed.
At seven-thirty, Banter changed into a skirt and blouse.
“You changed early,” Corey said when she came out.
“I decided I should sit for a while and make it look like I’ve been wearing the suit for a bit.”
“You are good at the details. Other then a rumpled suit, you all set?”
“Yeah. The topic for the evening is drinks. Bea said she had taken a bartender class.”
“Are you coming home smelling like rum, again?”
“No. I think I’ll have a soda. Bea can order the alcohol.”
“Just don’t get her drunk.”
At eight-thirty, he walked out with her.
“Be careful,” he said, giving her a kiss.
“I need more luck,” she said.
“If there is anything going on at that club, you’re the one to find it.”
“I wish I had your confidence.”
“I think the undercovers wish they had half your skill.”
She smiled at him and got into the SUV.
Banter pulled out of the garage, mulling over what he said. So far, she hadn’t found anything. The undercovers had spent months watching the club and weren’t finding anything. Maybe nothing was going on.
She pulled up and parked just when Bea arrived. Banter activated the camera and stepped out. She was glad the rain had stopped. Again, she checked the alley while she walked to meet Bea. The light was on.
“Well, hey, fancy meeting you here,” Bea said, getting out of her car.
She was in dark slacks and a blue blouse. Her hair was up in a bun. Her shoes were simple black slip-ons.
“It’s been quite a week,” Banter said, falling into character.
“It’s only hump day.”
“Still part of the week.”
Banter noted there were as many cars as the night before. She knew Peter was somewhere lurking in the shadows.
Inside, Banter indicated that she wanted to sit at the bar. She was surprised to see that the manager who seated them was different, however, he dressed the same as the others and also had a handlebar mustache. The manager led her to the same seat that she had had the night before. Bea sat next to her and knew to sit back and not block her view.
“What can I get you ladies?” the bartender said after the manager left.
“A coke with an olive,” Banter said.
“Old fashion sweet,” Bea said.
“So how have you been?” Banter said.
“Good. Work is crazy.”
Bea watched the bartender.
“Mine, too,” Banter said.
She also watched the bartender. He poured out the soda from the dispenser, then stepped over to the other end of the bar. Banter swore he was looking through a book. He then came back and put a drink together. They were then served their drinks.
Banter paid for the drinks. The bartender walked away.
Bea barely sipped her drink. Banter sipped hers and found the soda was a little stale.
“How is it?” Banter said.
“Training issues,” Bea said in a quiet voice.
Her eyes darted toward the bartender.
“Not a common order?”
“You have people that have the job and look like they know the job. But they don’t know the job.”
“Interesting,” Banter said.
“Sometimes it’s obvious, and you wonder how they were hired.”
“We have training dollar issues and keeping up with the times issues,” Banter said.
Bea looked around.
“Never been here before.”
“You should visit more clubs,” Bea said.
“I’ve been in one other, but my focus wasn’t in the club.”
Bea took out her phone.
“I have pictures of the kids. You should see them.”
Bea tapped on her phone, then showed her. There were no pictures. Bea had typed out a note.
Everyone is drinking water.
Banter darted her eyes around. On every table she could see, the occupants only had water glasses. Now that Bea had pointed it out, it was obvious. Not a single table had a mixed drink.
A man came into the club and went up to the bar. He was taken to an area that Banter couldn’t see.
“The kids are growing fast.”
Banter knew Bea was just making small talk.
A few minutes later, the man left.
Banter felt disturbed.
“I’m taking a cooking class on Saturdays,” she said, trying to figure out why she was so disturbed.
Bea almost choked up laughing.
“No, seriously,” Banter said.
“How’s that going?”
“I think some of my problem is focus.”
“Not everyone is made to be a great cook.”
“How do you do it?”
“I learned out of necessity, plus I had a grandmother who did nothing but cook. If she wasn’t cooking and you weren’t eating, then something was wrong. Later, after she had hip surgery, I had to cook for her and she made sure I did it right.”
“My mother was a terrible role model,” Banter said.
“So what did you do in class?”
“Omelet and biscuits.”
“I screwed up the biscuits.”
Bea, again, choked up laughing.
“I can show you things that no cooking class will teach you.”
“And lose your job?” Banter mouthed the words.
“I don’t think that’s a problem. I do a few more things than just cook.”
A couple entered. Banter noted they were seated behind them. They ordered wine.
“What else do you drink?” Banter said.
“I love whiskey,” Bea said. “Dose of that at night and I sleep really well. I prefer rye over anything.”
“I have no idea what you are saying.”
Banter noted Bea wasn’t touching her drink.
“I take it that lack of training ruins things.”
She gave the barest of nods toward Bea’s drink.
“It’s made wrong,” she said. “Nasty. How about you?”
“Means it’s not getting used fast enough.”
The waiter took two glasses of wine to the table behind them.
“That’s real,” Bea said with a flash of her eyes.
“Noted,” Banter said. “I’m really glad we ran in to each other. You’ve opened my eyes.”
“As much as I am. So back to cooking. What did I do wrong if I end up with a hockey puck in the slow cooker?”
Bea cracked up.
“Too long, too hot, and not enough liquid.”
“Damn, that’s what Co… my husband said.”
Banter didn’t want to say any names.
“Always add liquid for slow cookers.”
For the rest of the time, they chatted about cooking. No one else was seated behind them. The couple that was there stayed an hour and then left.
“Well, I have to get home,” Banter said. “It was great to see you.”
They walked out together.
“Keep in touch,” she said to Bea.
“Yeah. Call some time.”
They went to their respective cars and left.
Banter drove a couple of miles and then pulled over. She called Bea. Her phone almost rang to voice mail.
“You in a good position to talk?”
“Yeah, I just pulled over.”
“What was wrong with that club?”
“That was no bartender,” Bea said. “He moved like he was unfamiliar with everything. He even had trouble getting your soda. That drink he mixed for me was wrong. Any bartender around here should know off the top of his head how to make an old fashion.”
“And everyone else was drinking water, except the couple behind us.”
“Exactly,” Bea said.
“Anything else you noted?”
“The place didn’t feel like a night club.”
“It felt off.”
“Thanks for lending your eyes and spending the time. Make sure you put down this time for your hours.”
“No problem. It was kind of fun.”
“See you tomorrow,” Banter said.
Banter stared at her steering wheel. Then remembered to turn off the camera.
“What the fuck are we seeing here?”
The steering wheel had no answer.
She put the car in gear and drove home.